Democratic Public Service Commissioner John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway staved off a tough primary challenge Tuesday in southern Montana’s District 3, advancing to a general election rematch-of- sorts with Republican Roger Koopman of Bozeman, who won a four-way primary race.
Tuesday’s primary election results also set the table in two other contested races for the PSC, the five-member body that regulates gas, electric, telephone and water utilities in Montana.
Here’s a look at the final outcomes in each of the three PSC districts, based on unofficial vote tallies:
District 3: Vincent, running for a second term in this
4-county district, defeated Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Commissioner Mark Sweeney of Anaconda by a mere 328 votes out of almost 19,400 cast in the Democratic primary. Vincent won 50.7 percent of the vote and Sweeny had 49 percent.
Sweeney campaigned hard against Vincent, who said he was too busy doing his job as commissioner to get out to campaign, but couldn’t overcome Vincent’s 2,700-vote margin in Gallatin County, the largest pool of voters in the district.
District 14 stretches Dillon to Roundup, and includes the cities of Butte, Bozeman, Anaconda and Livingston.
Koopman, a former state representative, won the GOP primary with 39 percent of the vote, outpolling Dillon attorney James Brown by about 2,000 votes out of 23,600 cast. Brown had just over 31 percent.
Rep. Michael More of Gallatin Gateway was third in the Republican primary with nearly 19 percent of the vote and engineer Ed McCrone of Fishtail brought up the rear with 10 percent.
Vincent and Koopman ran against each other in 2006 for a legislative seat, when Vincent challenged then-Rep. Koopman in traditionally Republican House District 70. Koopman won the race by less than 300 votes, out of about 5,000 cast.
Koopman, who runs an employment and career-counseling agency, then decided in 2008 not to run for re-election to the House seat.
Vincent, 69, has one of the longest political track records of any Montana officeholder. He’s been a Gallatin County commissioner and a city commissioner and mayor in Bozeman, and spent 16 years in the Legislature, including two stints as speaker of the House in the 1980s.
District 2: Democrat Chuck Tooley, a former Billings mayor, and Republican Kirk Bushman, an engineer from Billings, won their respective primaries Tuesday and will face off this fall in this district that covers 10 counties in southeastern Montana.
Tooley defeated state Sen. Lynda Moss of Billings in the Democratic primary with 56 percent of the vote; Bushman beat Al Garver of Billings with 63 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. Garver had suspended his bid two months ago, saying work obligations prevented him from fully campaigning.
District 4: Republican state Sen. Bob Lake of Hamilton won a three-way GOP primary Tuesday and will take on Commissioner Gail Gutsche, D-Missoula, in this district that covers seven western and northwestern Montana counties.
Lake had nearly 45 percent of the GOP primary vote, defeating recording studio owner Jim Pearson of Darby, who had 34 percent, and contractor Chris Griel of Missoula, with 21 percent.
Gutsche was unopposed in the primary election, and is running for a second four-year term.